Seven Superpowers (Author Interview)

Seven Superpowers looks like a helpful parent guide.  Can you tell us a little about your target market?

I just want to reach parents ~ any parent in any location to help them prepare for anything that can come their way. Students and other behavior analysts or psychologists may refer to the seven superpowers in their training but really the book is to help people realize they already have innate strengths and my own parents who had no formal training in behavior analysis made the superpowers so clear to me (after I became an adult and completed studies on academic theory behind the skills/tactics/strategies we know are helpful to parents and raising kids).


Any plans to turn it into a series?

I had grand plans to create a series for different groups of people depending on their role supporting the child: siblings would be the first, then grandparents, then relatives, teachers, etc… But I’ve gotten more feedback from uncles and aunts and grandparents even compared to parents – it’s the others who want to understand their own family dynamic and the Seven Superpowers they said opened their eyes to many things and that an “ol dog can be taught new tricks!” I had the idea for the quick guide to help parent with easy to remember ideas when I wrote out my goals 15 years ago and I started writing it 12 years ago so I’m hoping this version I just released will be good for a few years at least.


How long did it take you to write Seven Superpowers?

Actual writing I started 12 years ago but really buckled down, every Thursday rain or shine, since December of 2021, so the formatting and actual meat of the book I worked on continuously for the past 6 months.


What inspired you when writing Seven Superpowers?   

Parents. All parents. Watching my own parents and then seeing them as grandparents. Watching my husband with the kids and our relatives’ kids. Watching my siblings interact with their kids. I am so inspired by parents who I work with daily. They live with the most severe behaviors anyone could imagine and MANY people would immediately react to typically. The parents I work with in my professional practice are superpowered champions and I learn patience power in a whole new way when I observe a parent who is intervening on their child banging their head against the wall repeatedly. Those parents inspired me when writing and inspire me every moment of my day.


What will readers get out of your book?

I am hoping readers will get a little “pull” to look at things from a whole new perspective. Such as, stepping back for 10 minutes when you’re ready to blow up from an upsetting conversation or for any reason, that we realize for one second that our kids are permanently recording what they see. Or to just put a little bit of structure into place such as singing a silly song you make up with your kids as you line up to walk out the apartment door to go somewhere – establishing routines in any instance can help with this practice and even though it may seem silly or like “ugh I have to do this now and I really don’t want to” – if we just get into the practice of these little things (and they will become “little” over time even if they don’t start out that way because we think so much about having to “do” something else or add something to our routine which in the moment can feel like a drag). I want parents to know they have the innate strength – it is a superpower that just needs to be exercised. I hear more from grandparents about how they should set expectations for their grandchildren and I didn’t expect that outcome!


How did you come up with the ideas in Seven Superpowers?

Since starting in this field in the late 1990s, I have seen parents struggle in the moment and ready to throw their hands up in the air like “I am done with this! I can’t deal with this!” I’ve been there many times and I still feel that way, just now instead of everyday, it’s once in a blue moon and I know that thought comes into my head but it isn’t as relevant because I can shift to “see” that the teenagers are just trying to do the best they can. I have seen parents struggle in the times when it seems everyone is looking at them: at church, at a restaurant, in line at the post office, at the grocery store, riding the bus… There are many people around them watching them struggle with their kids yelling, crying, throwing things, hitting their brother, kicking the dog, screaming and tantrumming…I feel for those parents in that exact moment and want them to be able to feel their superpowers activating and calming responding to their child. There’s nothing more magical than seeing a parent calmly react to a spitting-in-your-face tantrum. I think that is the most amazing superpowers, the patience power, we all have it, we can use it, we just sometimes need to practice it and around people who may think “get your kid to shut up and give him that piece of candy already!” I want parents to know they have the tools/strengths/abilities/energy to respond in a way that doesn’t make them upset too and can actually model the correct way to respond when things are feeling crazily out of control.


Did anything stick out as particularly challenging when writing Seven Superpowers?

The most challenging part of this book for me was making sure my readers knew I was living in a messy world myself – that was my actual experience. Even though my parents were able to make things structured for me that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle as a kid and teenager, and it also doesn’t mean that my parents didn’t argue or get reactive towards my behaviors. It was a challenge for me to show the most human side of my experience when I’m trying to teach through examples/models of what TO DO, as opposed to what NOT to do. I had one behavior analyst say to me “ok so you had amazing parents at everything…we get it” and I knew that I would get that feedback because as I read the final draft I could see my struggle but I could not see my parents’ struggles. But that is the point of the book, to not focus on the challenges and talk all the time about what is difficult. I do that everyday in my behavior assessments, but the purpose of this book was to show WHAT WORKS. My older brother Brian who is an excellent writer was one of my editors and he said it comes off that I had this golden amazing perfect childhood – but of course that wasn’t the case and never is for any human. I had a hard time capturing that idea because I wanted to keep the book focused on the positive and to emphasize that we have the superpowers whether we want to see it or not!


Can you tell us a little about your background?

My name is Maria Gilmour and I would like to share a little about my experience. I have been a doctoral level board certified behavior analyst (BCBA-D) since 2007. Two decades ago, I attended Gonzaga University where I obtained my masters in special education, then I moved to New York and attended Columbia University for my teaching credential, and completed my graduate studies at the University of Georgia for my doctorate in special education with focus areas in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Learning and Cognition, and Educational Administration and Policy. After grad school I worked for seven years at a large Applied Behavior Analysis agency, Star of California Behavioral & Psychological Services. My last year working there, I started using a specific type of video modeling and saw that my students were picking up skills quicker compared to any other methods I had used and researched. At that time, I shifted gears and worked full-time completing research with Portland State University, and I started my Applied Behavior Analysis agency, Wynne Solutions, focusing on parent education and the use of telehealth in 2013. Also, I was an assistant professor of practice at Portland State and launched their online-BCBA program five years ago.

After publishing the study in 2015, I became the chief clinical officer of a company that is the industry leader of on-demand video modeling for kids with and without exceptionalities, Gemiini Systems. I have continued as CEO of Wynne Solutions where we continue our focus of therapy with caregivers and we address severe behavior challenges such as self-injury, property destruction and aggression. We have a team of 10 behavior analysts who are the most amazing clinicians I’ve ever seen.  


Where can readers find out more about your work?

Below are some of my online magazine and blog publications and an interview with Autism Parenting Magazine: